Conservative corporatist: nationalist thoughts of aristocrats: the ideas of Soetatmo Soeriokoesoemo and Noto Soeroto.
Herbert Feith and Lance Castles count five ideological structures around which Indonesia's political life in the 1950s pivoted: radical nationalism, Javanese traditionalism, Islam, Democratic Socialism and Communism. They contend that Javanese traditionalism and Democratic Socialism stem from the same 'nationalism pure and simple' which became the main source for radical nationalism (Feith and Castles 1970:151). But labelling Javanese aristocratic thoughts within Javanese traditionalism is problematic due to the inherently conservative beliefs of many of Java's aristocratic intellectuals. The purpose of this article is to question and engage in the political discourse of Javanese aristocrats. Engaging with such a discourse allows us to broaden the composite origin of modern Indonesian nationalism. Since many aristocrats were in favour of continued Dutch rule, their presence within Indonesia's national discourse has been camouflaged under the banner of an anti-conservative ideology.
I will look into the written texts of two important Javanese nationalists: Soetatmo Soeriokoesoemo (1888-1924) and Noto Soeroto (1888-1951). Their prolific writing and importance within the discussion of nationalism allow us to take a glimpse into the thoughts and ideas surrounding some of the aristocratic members on Indonesian state-society relations. Understanding this would allow us to position them within the various ideological streams of Indonesian nationalism and see the extent of their contribution to state-society relations that would develop during later independence period. Although born during the same year, both men contributed their voice to the discourse at different times. Soetatmo Soeriokoesomo died in 1924, long before Indonesia attained its independence, but his thought is important in understanding the early period of Javanese aristocratic nationalism. Noto Soeroto is an ideal candidate as he also experienced the early 1950s Indonesia. Noto Soeroto has been subject to several academic works, which includes Madelon Djajadiningrat-Nieuwenhuis's article (1993) on his biography and ideas, Roelie H. Koning's thesis (1968) on his involvement within the Dutch literary scene during the period, and Rene B. Karels's complete biography (2010) of Noto Soeroto, including his political ideas in Mijn aardse leven vol moeite en strijd. Raden Mas Noto Soeroto. I will look into both Soetatmo's and Noto's writings although I will, due to both his prodigious writing and long life span, heavily focus on Noto Soeroto's work. Soetatmo's inclusion is necessary in order to frame early Javanese nationalism. I will then look into continuity of Noto Soeroto's ideas during the colonial and the early 1950s period. By reading these texts, I wish to get an initial sense of the extent of their effect on the post-colonial state-society relations.
This article approaches nationalism as a discourse and will not try to engage in the structural debate of its rise, since Benedict Anderson (1991) has already elucidated how it hinged on technological progress and the modern feeling of leaving behind traditional spaces. Eugen Weber's study (1976) of French nationalism and Thongchai Winichakul's study (1994) of Thai nationalism have also mined this territory. More in line with Gellner's theory of nationalism, this article looks at the possible construction of legitimacy based on an ethnic or cultural distinction within a political boundary that incorporated the particular ethnicity within a larger multicultural patchwork of a colonial empire. (1) It is a discourse that existed within a small elite of Indonesia, but whose ramifications, exemplified especially within ideologically-driven states like the later Guided Democracy or New Order state, became significant for a large portion of the population.
The roots of Javanese nationalism
Instead of becoming Indonesian nationalists, many Javanese aristocrats began to develop a form of Javanese nationalism that focused on the rebirth of Javanese civilization. If we consider people like Raden Adjeng Kartini or the Boedi Oetomo students as the first nationalist icons to appear on the colonial landscape, it is striking that both aimed at the cultural rejuvenation of the Javanese nation through European modernity. Becoming modern, more than anything else, pushed for the process of reform that characterized early Indonesian nationalist thoughts. Not only did Kartini see it as a modern process, but she also saw the position of the Dutch as essential toward that modernization process.
The Europeans are irritated by many of the characteristics of the Javanese, for instance by our indifference, laziness, etc. Well now Dutchmen, if you are so irritated by these characteristics, why do you then do nothing to drive away these vices? Why don't you put an effort in order to raise your brown brothers? Believe me, all that evil can be exterminated. Take away that veil that covers his brain, open his eyes, and you will see that in him there is also something different than the inclination toward evil, which mainly springs forth from stupidity and ignorance. (2)
Kartini shared with many of her Dutch friends a popular vision of what the Javanese were and where they should be going: their childlike qualities, potentiality for civilizational renaissance, distrust of Islam, and the need to make the Javanese Javanese again. Turning them into an echt Javaan: a real Javanese, a modern Javanese, a person who had national feelings toward his fellow Javanese that resembled those of modern Europeans. The way to do this was for the Javanese to be 'Europeanized'.
With the liberal education, we above all intend to turn the Javanese into real Javanese; Javanese with love and enthusiasm for their country and people, with an open eye and heart to their virtues and--needs! We want to give them the beauty of European civilization, not so as to push aside and replace their own beauty, but in order to ennoble it. (3)
The effort for rejuvenation was related to the debasement of Javanese civilization after a century of European scientific research on the Javanese. The rise of comparative linguistics in British India with the research of Sir William Jones in the late eighteenth century elevated the position of Sanskrit within the Indo-European family (Ballantyne 2002:18-43). This study of language family resulted in the formation of a racial rank-order, based on language families, which implied a racial ordering of people. What was important was that the rise of this racial picture elevated the Aryan Indian and relegated Javanese culture and civilization as a bad Indian copy. (4) The position of the Javanese as mere Malayo-Polynesian people meant that their racial and civilizational position became problematic. Javanese nationalism must be seen in relation to this cultural debasement of the Javanese. Their effort at cultural rejuvenation was a consequence of the need to reformulate Javanese culture in a way so as to legitimize its position and secure its raison d'etre as 'real' as opposed to 'imitation'. It was within this cultural crisis that Indonesian nationalism found its deepest roots.
Many Javanese nationalists became attracted to the political theories and movement that were transferred along the lines of colonial relations, which brought forth colourful figures like the communist Henk Sneevliet and the theosophist Dirk van Hinloopen Labberton. While most nationalists were attracted to leftist, anti-capitalist ideas, some aristocrats opted for right-wing Javanese nationalism. This was the result of two things. First, many in the aristocratic class cling to the idea of a cultural rejuvenation of the Javanese nation. Those who opted for social and political emancipation put cultural rejuvenation in the back seat as they joined radical social movements. Theosophy was alluring exactly because it exalted Eastern mysticism and its cultural paraphernalia as a political expression. It allowed high culture to function as a political statement. Secondly, many of the aristocrats were conservative and valued their position in colonial society. They wanted reform, but were adamant in retaining their position in society. What they wanted was gradual emancipation, not revolution toward independence.
Javanese aristocratic thoughts during the colonial period: Soetatmo Soeriokoesoemo and Noto Soeroto
We will primarily be discussing two major Javanese aristocratic intellectuals, both of them active within a movement that can be defined as culturalist, which aimed at a cultural renaissance of the Javanese nation. They were also conservative in connection to their perspective on the role of the traditional aristocracy. The first one, Soetatmo Soeriokoesoemo, hailed from the Paku Alam royal house in Yogyakarta where he was born in 1888. In 1914 he founded the Committee for Javanese Nationalism as well as the journal Wederopbouw or Reconstruction (Shiraishi 1981:95). He also played a leading role in the formation of the Paguyuban Selassa Kliwon, a group who actively invited political and spiritual leaders who were dissatisfied with purely political action and who discussed the spiritual reorientation of the political goals. (5) The second figure under discussion, Noto Soeroto, was the son of Prince Ario Notodiredjo and Raden Ajoe Notodiredjo from the royal house of Paku Alam in the Javanese city of Yogyakarta. His father, Noto Diredjo was one of the founders of Boedi Oetomo. Born in 1888, after finishing high school (HBS) in 1906 he was sent to the Netherlands to study law. He entered Leiden University in 1909 and completed his candidate exam in 1911 but he never obtained his law degree. 1909 was also the year he started his career in writing on trade and industry in the Netherlands Indies and also on daily life in Java (Roelie 1968). He had also joined the Indische Vereeniging (IV) and became its chairman there. He was adamantly pro-Dutch and showed this in his published letter to the Indische Partij leaders during their banishment to the Netherlands. He would later marry a Dutch woman and have three children with her. In 1932, Soeroto went home to the Indies alone to find no one interested in listening to his ideas (Djajadiningrat-Nieuwenhuis 1993; Kerdijk 2002:26-33).
Coming from a noble family in the centre of refined Javanese court culture, Yogyakarta, Noto Soeroto's position was thus similar to that of Soetatmo: a Javanese nationalist. Like Soetatmo, he did not strive for an independent Java, instead he saw the continuation of Dutch guidance and protection as a measure for traditional Java to go forward. He was a good friend to the future Mangkunegara VII of Surakarta. Soetatmo preceded Noto Soeroto, working in the Indies in the 1910s and 1920s, while Noto Soeroto only came back to the Indies in 1930. By going through their ideas and thoughts, we can better situate their position on the discussion of the idea of Indonesian state-society relations.
Soetatmo Soeriokoesoemo: Anti-democratic conservatism
In one of Soetatmo's early work, Sabdo Pandito Ratoe, he reiterated his belief that the Javanese people should be under the natural leadership of their aristocrats. He saw democracy as a threat, arguing that according to Javanese philosophy the right to rule remained in the hands of the wise and just, instead of with the people, the wise and just being those that are knowledgeable about the foundations of Javanese civilization. His intellectual clash with the leftist and democratically inspired Tjipto Mangoenkoesoemo in 1918 has been discussed by Takashi Shiraishi (1981:93-108). Clearly, two major positions within the corporatist ideas of Indonesian nationalism emerged. The increasing radicalization of the people was seen a threat. Soetatmo understood Java's culture as the bedrock for a stable civilization. He believed nationalism to be more than useless: it was dangerous. He considered rule by the people to be an illusion.
A government by the people! That is a utopia that has never existed in this world. As it apparently did exist in failed Western civilization, then its appearance has soon enough revenged itself. In truth, there is no people's government in Europe; the government there depends on a group of persons who only in name represent the people. (6)
Soetatmo thus placed a high regard on Java's cultural and societal past. He foresaw a society that would be rejuvenated by the presence of pandita; a sort of cultural-spiritual leadership which would enlighten and continue Java's civilization. Unfortunately, this was problematic: the colonial knowledge gathering project has by the twentieth century relegated Java as a second-rate copy of India's civilizational genius, an Aryan civilizational genius. Javanese nationalism, to a large extent, lay in the effort of trying to come to terms with this notion. The focus of rejuvenation or reconstruction was central. The Javanese was also on a campaign of modernist purification, similar to Islamic modernism. In this sense, it was extremely conservative and saw newer forms of political thoughts promoting change and the creation of a totally new society as a threat, whether it came from liberalism, communism/socialism, or fascism. Soetatmo's political vehicle was the organization he helped build, the Wederopbouw or Reconstruction society: it sought to reconstruct old Javanese society, but in order to do that, it had to answer the problem of Java's relegated second rate status. Thus it is important to understand that Soetatmo's second important political stance, irrationalism, lies in this cultural quandary.
His irrational thoughts stem from two things: first, a deep disgust at Western rationality, which he thought lead to the loss of spirituality and the rise of materialism. This rise in an anti-rational and anti-materialistic strain was aided by the rise of theosophy within colonial society. In a lecture at the Javanese Cultural Congress held in 1918, Soetatmo called for the need to create an organization that would cater to the spiritual education of the Javanese (Soeriokoesoemo 1921:7), and second, the need to reclaim Java's lost heritage, which is a kind of mysticism that was part of modernity and connected to the nationalist idea (Crooke 2008:17-27). In 1921 there was a special congress of the Java institute held in Bandung on the creation of a Javanese nationalist history. Speakers included Dutch indologists such as W. Fruin-Mees and Z. Stokvis and Javanese aristocratic intellectuals such as K. Darnakoesoema and Hussain Soemadipradja (Congres Bandoeng 1921). Java did not have a traditional historiography other than the babad, and this was almost fully discredited as a historical narrative by indologists. The Javanese focus on mysticism was thus reactionary to the way twentieth-century 'rationality' legitimated a racial domination of Europeans against Javanese. This logic of Western rationalization of a world based on racial stratification was perceived as rather impenetrable.
Soetatmo's article on the moral need for teaching Javanese history focused on the babad. Babad were Java's poetic historiographic narratives, to be sung to an audience and which liberally conjoined the past with the mythic, weaving into and mixing historical figures with mythical ones culled from the wayang and Javanese mythologies. The Javanese version of history was that of the shadow play. He accused educated Javanese of missing the point of the babad and of history altogether. Instead of dividing the world into the material and the immaterial, the natural and the supernatural, Soetatmo saw this division and the reduction of the immaterial, the mystical and the supernatural as a dangerous slide into the decadence of Western materialism. He deplored the loss of the belief in the spirits and the unknown, and saw the new ways of thoughts among youths who considered the babad as rationally faulty (Soeriokoesoemo 1921:12). With the advent of irrationalism and spiritualism in the West, most succinctly demonstrated in the Indies with the growth of the theosophy, it provided an ironic legitimacy as many Westerners, including, according to Soetatmo, engineers, lawyers, teachers and so forth have begun to appreciate the knowledge of the unknown. If Westerners believe in the unknown, surely the Javanese should not all too eagerly abandon their own beliefs. (7) The babad, like other Javanese mystical cultures, then closed Java off from the prying hands of Western knowledge. The death of Ranggawarsita was avenged by the Javanese through their re-mystification of Java and the denial of Western access to the ultimate truth and knowledge of the Javanese.
Although Soetatmo died young, there was a high degree of overlap and continuity between his thoughts and that of his contemporary Noto Soeroto. The next section brings out the similarities and differences in the thinking of these conservative aristocrats.
We will consider Noto Soeroto's ideas in the 1920s and in 1949-1950. During these occasions, Noto Soeroto became editor to the magazines Oedaya and Udaya. Oedaya was published in the Netherlands between 1924-1931 and Udaya was published in Java only for a little more than one year, in 1949-1950. The magazines primarily catered to different audiences: in the 1920s to a largely Dutch and in 1949-1950 to the educated post-Independence Indonesian classes. An even more important audience were the nationalists in both the 1920s and the 1950s.
Soetatmo's ideas were rather vague focusing more on maintaining the status quo of colonial society. They were reactionary toward the increasing influence of radical nationalists. Noto, meanwhile, was not reactionary but genuinely tried to offer something different to the more established nationalists. The Indische Vereeniging began in 1908, the same year as Boedi Oetomo, with the same cultural goal and a minimal interest in direct political actions. While Noto participated and, in fact, became head of the IV during its earlier years, the colonial government's policy of banning politically questionable nationalists to the Netherlands had resulted in a politicization of the organization. In 1924, the organization changed its name to Perhimpoenan Indonesia (PI) and the name of its magazine to Indonesia Merdeka (Ingleson 1975:2-8). The nationalists also kicked Noto out of the organization, charging him of violating the goals of the organization.
His Oedaya group would become one of the main oppositions to the PI. By the middle of the 1920s, he had become the poster boy for the evils of the colonial association, the bulwark of the receding ethicist ideology in Dutch politics. In the Soerabaiasch Handelsblad on 15 and 16 September 1927, a writer has this to say about him:
He is a Javanese who misses almost all the characteristics of his people, or has succeeded in hiding them and adapting them as it suits the group of impractical dreamers that stands around and behind him. He has either lost all honesty or all knowledge which is expected of such a poet-'thinker'. He is a figure of insincerity, the unprincipled, and he on a number of criteria far below those members of the Indonesia Merdeka whom we oppose. (8)
In an article on the Bintang Timoer, Abdul Rivai again lambasted Noto Soeroto as a traitor and called him an Inlander hater. 'He is not only no Javanese anymore, he has become a hater of Javanese; he stands in particular behind the haters of the inlander, whom he incites'. (9) Below are the main points of his argument for continued colonial relations and a proposal for an aristocratic-based state-society relations. Although seemingly ludicrous from present-day stand point, his ideas was as valid as the radical nationalists in an environment in which independence seemed remotely inaccessible.
Non-cooperation and violence
Noto's brand of politics lay in a peaceful, Eastern wisdom, not the crass materialistic politics of the West. He considered people of the West to be characteristically violent and as such, the Western political system to be inherently violent (Soeroto 1925b:222-4). This meant practically every form of Western political culture: the party system, liberal democracy, ideologies. He contrasted this with the Eastern racial characteristics, one that was inherently harmonious and sought after peace instead of victory, prosperity for all instead of the elevation of one part of the population against others (Soeroto 1925b:22-24). Falling into such failed Western political thoughts also brought with it the dangers of violence. This was obviously an affront to what Noto Soeroto perceived to be the tendency to instigate violence coming from the PI. Noto Soeroto considered them too Dutch, too Western for the purpose of the building of Indonesian nationalism.
I ... bid leave to the Indonesische Vereeniging, an association of young people, who without further comment adhere to the slogan 'free from Holland' and among whom Dutch is spoken and Dutch, or at any rate European concepts, like 'nationalism' and 'revolution' are honoured. (10)
He considered the place for nationalism to lie within a greater understanding of the cultural essences of the nation.
He understood the fact that the colonial project was, by its very nature, temporal. His belief lay in the development of indigenous political ideas that were Eastern, that would create an end that was harmonious not violent. He deplored the thoughts of his intellectual comrades for having imbibed Western political thoughts without criticizing them, warning that such a policy would end in class bloodshed. A nationalism that was not egoistic, one that would understand the need for continued Western cooperation.
At this international stage of world revolution the people limps behind who still put faith in the idea of absolute nationalism. We cannot tear away as a nation, we still to attach ourselves closely and seek the tightest ties with the West. (11)
He also deplored the way the young intellectuals refused to see the good in the colonial government focusing only on the material side of the equation. Indonesia Merdeka called on the inevitability of violence, which the goal toward independence must wade through the seas of blood and tear. Noto deplored such inevitable acceptance, he called the obsession with political freedom above all else an illusion, 'that even within a free people, only a small part of that people could live in true freedom and most are subject to spiritual and physical slavery'. (12)
In response, members of the PI felt that Noto Soeroto was ill-informed about the situation in Indonesia, after living so long amongst the Dutch in the Netherlands. They called him a Dutchified Indonesian and thought he misunderstood the racial character of colonial politics. While Noto Soeroto claimed that racial and class violence would result from the types of rhetoric these men were pouring out, people like Semaoen, who was instrumental in kicking Noto Soeroto out of PI in 1924, and Mohammad Hatta, future vice-president of the independent republic, saw things within the context of historical materialism. People in the PI believed that racial violence was the result of the systematic exploitation by private capital. It was logical, even scientific for that reason to happen: a natural outcome of imbalances within the system. If revolution did occur, what would have been a class struggle would end in racial struggle because the colonial system perpetuated this picture of racial inequality.
Like Soetatmo, Noto Soeroto did not believe in democracy. He considered Indonesia not ready for a Western-style parliamentary democracy. What it needed was rule by the Aristoi.
Because of the boost of all these Western methods and insights, the indigenous people will soon demand a direct and general right to vote as a desirable good, and through this right will also come the hunt for votes, for party groups and so forth, just as in the West. And when we also take our short political schooling and the drive of each enthusiasm into account--are nationalists not inherently enthusiasts?--then everything comes down to demagogy, not only against the foreign rulers, but also against the natural leaders of the indigenous themselves: the bearer of culture, tradition, maturity, and responsibility: the Aristoi. (13)
Western-style democracy brought the dangers of swinging the easily impressionable people of the Indies to take a counter position not only against their white rulers but also against the Indonesian aristocracy, pushing them into a path that would be disadvantageous for the nation. It was demagogy that Noto Soeroto feared would result from Western style democracy. Different from Europe's own infatuation of the powerful leader, the Ubermensch, which would see the rise of charismatic dictators such as Italy's Mussolini or Germany's Hitler, the concept of Aristoi here meant a natural leader of the indigenous society. One who was deeply embedded and understood the culture and civilization of the Indies but was also acquainted with Western thought and knowledge.
Noto Soeroto was one of the biggest supporters of the Rijkseenheid movement. It focused on creating a future Indo-Dutch Union with the Queen as sovereign. He wanted a continuation of aristocratic rule, which meant a continuation of some form of Dutch connection. Total independence was out of the question. Thus the answer would either be dominion status or the idea of one kingdom. He rejected dominion status because he acknowledged that the Dutch and the Indonesian to have nothing in common to bond them together: neither culture, blood, nor language.
The problem of Rijkseenheid was a problem of intense myth-making on a nation state level: the problem posed was how to create a viable nationality. As one of the proponents of Rijkseenheid during the 1930s, Gerard Knuvelder (1932:100), said:
the problem that we are dealing with here, is that the construction of a constitutional framework for the entire Kingdom--especially, in which direction this construction needs to be reformed in connection to the demands of the general welfare of the Indonesian peoples. (14)
Or else, how to accommodate a change in the nation state that would allow an Indonesian presence, despite the inherently racial idea of the Dutch nation. Rijkseenheid would provide a common bond by placing Indonesia as part of an Indo-Dutch state; a two nation one state solution with the Dutch Queen as head of state (Soeroto 1931:5-12), an idea that became one of the most popular political ideas during the 1930s, and which, along with the Soetardjo Petition of 1936 (Abeyesekere 1973), became part of the plan for a semi-independent Indonesia. According to Noto, while the Dutch would retain their liberal-democracy, the Indonesian side would create an Eastern Aristoi system.
Pro-capitalist and anti-racism
Noto Soeroto (1927a:3) understood that the way Indonesian must go forward was not to deny capitalism, but to focus on 'character building and education for the world economy'. He believed that Indonesian nationalists must acknowledge the general flaw of Indonesian character in regard to trading and business. Indonesian nationalists said 'only when we have our political freedom, shall we automatically learn to think and act economically', (15) but Noto Soeroto found this naive. Instead, he thought, they should first try to understand the West and its complex culture and society, 'that even the world economy, although created by Western technology, will not for ever prove a Western specialty'. (16)
He called on the Dutch to understand that change was to take place, and while he believed that the Indonesians were not ready to self govern, he argued that that should not stop the Dutch from preparing a number of Indonesian intellectuals to eventually start the process of self governance. He warned that in today's modern world, the pace of life was changing ever faster, which meant that there was no time to rest (Soeroto 1927a:17). Noto Soeroto thus criticized Dutch racism and racial delusion. He called for increasing participation of Indonesians not just in the government, but also in the economy. Race was thus central to Noto Soeroto's criticism (1927b:59): that it was dangerous and that it should be replaced by a more inclusive spirit of humanity.
Few could have predicted that a little more than a decade after his arrival in the Indies, the colony would be on its way to independence, starting with the Japanese invasion. His pro-capitalist and anti-democratic stance was also the result of a vivid pragmatism in how he thought the world worked. Like many Dutch, he believed that Indonesia was not yet ready for full independence, that it would require many years of Dutch tutoring. He was an avowed Easterner, looking for the answer to the workings of the nation state within Eastern thought. He deplored practically all Western political forms from parliamentary democracy to Communism. And he ultimately believed that that Eastern form of Aristo-Democracy could exist within the development of a new, global government system, a thought that was common among many during the interwar years. He was very different from Soetatmo because he did not believe in the irrational. While he was enthralled by the teachings of Rabindranath Tagore, he did not fully support the idea of an impenetrable East. Unlike either theosophically oriented Javanese nationalists or even leftist inspired nationalists, he acknowledged the material nature of world history and embraced it.
Soeroto's thoughts after Independence
Noto Soeroto did live to experience post-colonial Indonesia. Not only did he see the retreat of the Dutch against the superior Japanese forces, but also the loss of legitimacy of his beloved Paku Alam royal house of Surakarta. His health was compromised and he endured hunger when he held in detention by the Japanese. He died alone in poverty in 1951 (Kerdijk 2002:175-7). After independence, his position within society became even more marginal than before. There are two major sources for his writings during this late period. The first, Udaya magazine, was rather short-lived (1949-1950) and faced some difficulties in publishing as he was unable to find enough people to financially support it; the other was a series of articles published in the second half of the 1950 in the Dutch-language newspaper De Locomotief. These series of articles were then published in a small booklet entitled Pro Swapradja. The booklet tried to argue for the continuation of the self-rule or swapradja kingdoms in Indonesia, especially of course the continuation of the two small 'kingdoms' in the city of Surakarta.
By the early 1950s, Dutch attitudes and readership had become of marginal interest. Noto Soeroto's audience had shifted toward Indonesia. His dislike of the violent character of nationalism was again seen in his criticism of the way many Indonesian nationalists had the concept of permanent revolution, in fact, even comparing this with Nazism, a concept and attitude which he believed would end negatively for everyone involved. 'The revolution for the sake of the revolution, as labelled by Hitler and by an ex-Nazi (Rauschning) "nihilistic revolution", will, sooner or later, completely swallow its own children'. (17) His effort to provide legitimacy for the Sunanate's raison d'etre for self-rule would end in defeat. Soeroto never entertained the ideas of corporatism outside the limits of the Aristoi: the organic cultural society he envisioned maintained a sense of traditional or feudal integration which would lessen the need for violence.
Disillusionment of modernity and the rise of nationalism
Noto Soeroto's writing in Udaya was upbeat, in comparison to the rather gloomy compromise of his articles in his Pro Swapradja booklet. Udaya was published mostly during the Republik Indonesia Serikat (RIS, United States of the Republic of Indonesia) period in 1949, while Pro Swaprajda was written after the end of the RIS when it was replaced by the Republic of Indonesia and the gloomy realization that the Dutch-Indo Union was going nowhere and a period near to his death in 1951. He engaged intellectually with the basic ideas of the new state, especially that of Pancasila. He was very much supportive of the corporatist notion that the adopt entailed, but unlike other nationalists he saw the need of the state to incorporate a multicultural outlook which would allow for the existence of racial minorities, such as the Chinese, but also the Dutch.
The New Period was a celebration of the end of Western control over the Indonesian and the Javanese, not only its political control, but more importantly its cultural control. It was a wider revolt by the Easterners against Western leadership because it has only resulted in catastrophe and disappointment. He considered the colonial era as a dark period in the development of Javanese culture, being co-opted within a regime whose main purpose was the increase of profit and whose policy on art and culture was 'that "art was no government business!'. (18) He railed against Modernity, or Western Modernity, seeing it as erroneous and vindicating its destructive and annihilationist character by looking at its greatest catastrophe: the Second World War. This modernity based itself on the flawed outlook of materialism, individualism, and a critical outlook. The problem with such an outlook was that it precluded the ability of society to create unity and harmony, which were the main goals of Javanese society as he saw it. Because Western modernity inherently promotes such centrifugal values, its outcome can only mean destruction in the worst sense of the word. The revolution for independence was thus connected in his mind with the negation of the modern consciousness and all its erroneous sensibilities and values. The idea of the Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev and his anti-modern ideas very much affected his thoughts, again demonstrating the illusory nature of the East-West divide. Rationality, individualism, and democracy were connected to the modern rise of nationalist oligarchies, imperialist politics, capitalism, and a godless and spiritual-less society (Soeroto 1950c). The end of the colony and, on a wider plane, Western modernity was a spiritual wake-up call for the continuation of Indonesian, that is Javanese, cultural evolution.
In this context, nationalism was a life-safer. It is clear that nationalism in Noto Soeroto's regard was very much a cultural expression. Yet where would Java express its cultural-nationalism within this amalgamation of various cultures called Indonesia?
The perspective of an Indonesian national life must engender great hopes with regard a respectable political, economic and social life. And as I just said, art is like generally speaking, the blossom or the fruit of a strong and healthy national life. Also this general respect, the new period in Java's history, the period of political conjoining with the Indonesian peoples, wide horizons will open up for the flourishing of Java's new art. (19)
Noto Soeroto thus saw Pancasila, Indonesia's five main ideological tenets, as being potentially very uplifting to the creation of the perfect society he was looking for. The corporatist ideas of Pancasila provided the building-block for cultural growth. Not only would Pancasila make possible the concern of cultural development as an important pillar of national development, but its concern with unity in diversity would allow for the continuation of the Javanese cultural expression not only to exist but to affect very much the new Indonesian national culture that was rising. It was to become the task of the new leadership to cultivate the national character of Indonesians.
At the same time, the rise of nationalism also brought about the spectres of violence which had prompted him during the pre-War period to clash with other Indonesian nationalists. To what extent was the rise of nationalism allowing for the creation of a multicultural and multinational Indonesia? He deplored the increasing racial tension between those considered 'Indonesian' and those considered non-Indonesian, that is the Dutch, as well as Indo and Chinese elements of society. He considered the rise of xenophobia to be an expression that conflicted with the essence of the character of the Indonesian. It was un-Indonesian
growing interest in partiality, the enhancement of the part above the whole, giving precedence to one's own or group's interests above the general interests, the excessive attention for the part, the parties. It results in blind partisanship, eventually the narrow focus on the I or egoism: that is the true seed of the lust for power and desire for control, of 'imperialism'. It therefore appears as un-Indonesian to see: the splintering and fragmentation of the young Indonesian nation into an ever growing number of parties, religious and political. (20)
He hoped that the increasingly xenophobic actions of Indonesians would prove a short term phenomena, as it was one that was totally against the essential character of the Indonesian nation. He quoted an unnamed Dutch friend in describing the situation:
How inhospitable your people have become! It would be truly sad if this would become a permanent characteristics, because hospitability is one of the most amiable characteristics of your people, whereas so many Dutchmen, who know this would like to stay here and work together to rebuild this new state also under the new conditions. (21)
The Swapradja, democracy and multiculturalism
Noto Soeroto had hoped that the self-rule kingdoms would continue its existence within the new republic. He was very close to the Mangkunegoro house of Surakarta and was a personal friend of Mangkunegoro VII and he hailed from the Paku Alam royal house of Yogyakarta, despite the awkward position he endured during the last decades of the colonial era in that highly stratified society (Djajadiningrat-Nieuwenhuis 1993:65-8). The constitutional framework of the RIS allowed for such a continuation. But when the RIS was replaced by the Unitary RI, the existence of these kingdoms was very much in jeopardy. With the exception of the Sultanate of Yogyakarta, no other self-rule area maintained their autonomy. This included the three other Mataram kingdoms of Central Java. Noto Soeroto's imagined idea of cultural development incorporated the aristocracies of Java, considering them to be the repository of the essences of Javanese culture. He saw the self-rule area or swapradja, or the new Indonesian term, the daerah istimewa, as being important component for the future of Indonesia's political development. This is because of his sincere believe that many of the aristocracy represented some of the best minds in society. He very much equated the aristocracy as being intellectuals. Of course, during the colonial period, much of Indonesia's intellectual class was heavily overrepresented by the aristocracy, especially the Javanese aristocracy. This was a power that should be harnessed, in the same way, he opined, as the aristocracy of Satsuma and Chosu played in the modernization of Japan during the Meiji Restoration (Soeroto 1950a:14-5). Thus, the role of the Aristoi should be continued as part of the process toward creating an Eastern form of modernity.
His distrust of the masses was clear in his definition of democracy. Of course, like Soetatmo, he viewed democracy with suspicion, as something which threatened the traditional aristocratic order. He supported a democratic system based on a getrapt kiesstelsel or a staged election system. One in which a cultural society would choose a representative to vote for them on the next phase of election until one reached parliament. It was one that was to maximize the potential of the aristocracy to use their social power and ensure a certain continuity of the aristocratic order. It is clear that all his thoughts on democracy and the effort to protect the kingdom's raison d'etre was conservative in nature. His effort to support corporatism within a cultural context, again, was essentially a conservative effort to maintain traditional society. Truth and wisdom, something which one can have if one was connected to the cultural essences of one's civilization, was to him more important than numbers. Thus, democracy must be able to allow itself to be permeated with the values of truth and wisdom. Besides, he asked,
Who is truly the friend of the people: the potentate, who free from cruelty and vindictiveness, was actually the true supporter of democracy, or the modern political democrat, the official 'pillar of society', the self-styled leader (pemimpin), who misuses his power and position in order to steal from the commoner (rakjat djelata) their meagre provisions, their low-quality textile, with which they cover their naked bodies and the little oil they have, which must burn to give light in their huts?. (22)
An enlightened potentate, like that of the susunan of Surakarta, would see his people as his child and would thus provide for his children in a wise and just way, something which could not possibly be conducted by politicians, with their constant cries for revolution.
Revolution was something to be afraid of, not to be celebrated, especially because he considered the revolution to have lost much of its original 1945 meaning. The revolution was over and it was time for the revolutionaries to become workers on the organization of the new society and on the rebuilding of the economy (Soeroto 1950a:10). The continuation of the spirit of revolution would only result in a revolt against lawful authority. He equated the ideas of total and eternal revolution, one that was supported by quite a number of the members of the nationalist movements, including, as was then apparent during Guided Democracy, President Soekarno himself, with the concept of the former-Nazi Hermann Rauschning in his work Die Revolution des Nihilismus (Soeroto 1950a:11). Noto himself wrote about Rauschning's concept in an article in Kritiek en Opbouw in 1937 (Djajadiningrat-Nieuwenhuis 1993:98). A nihilistic concept, he believed, which would end up destroying the children of the revolution. The fear of the revolutionary was as much a result of the traumatic experience Surakarta had under the Madiun Rebellion in 1948. The call to abolish the kingdom and aristocracy and the hatred of all things feudal was the mainstay of the revolutionary call in Surakarta. Violence was perpetrated to those employed within the government of Surakarta.
He was also very much conservative in his effort at maintaining cultural relations with the Dutch. None of his writings were written in any other language than Dutch. Even in many of the Udaya edition, he would be the only writer to have used Dutch instead of Indonesian. It is possible that he loathed to use such an, at the time, 'inadequate' language as Indonesian, but it was also true that he had actively produced plays and poems in Dutch during his stay in the Netherlands and afterwards in Indonesia. Thus, he had strong affinity with Dutch language and culture. He considered continued Dutch cooperation to be essential and that those who were fanatically against such cooperation were probably those that had grown up during the Japanese period and thus did not come into contact with Dutch people.
He was wary that the heightened anti-Dutch sentiment would result in something that ran against the interest of the Indonesian people. In 1949 there were still around 250,000 Dutch and Indo people living in the archipelago. He reasoned that as long as there were Dutch people living in Indonesia, Dutch influence would still exist.
And it is reasonable to expect, barring that an Indonesian government at one evil point in time would choose a path with a colour-policy that nowhere in the world is greeted with sympathy and pursue a 'brown-Indonesia' policy. Or infected by Nazi racial madness wanting to eradicate all except other than those of the 'real-Indonesian-race'. (23)
He thus feared that the increasingly xenophobic outlook of Indonesian toward other 'races' would result in a racial politics that would exclude the possibility of creating a truly multicultural society. The loss of Dutch influence would then be a real loss, perhaps not in the cultural sphere, but in those spheres the Indonesian lacked, particularly those related to the scientific achievements of the Dutch.
According to Djajadiningrat-Nieuwenhuis, throughout his life Noto Soeroto remained steadfast in his ideas. Was he a pragmatist or an idealist? He was certainly a conservative, and like the vast majority of Indonesian leaders and intellectuals during that period, he was a corporatist. He saw the need to formulate a new nation state based not on the capitalist ideals of the old colonial state, but on the recreation of a culturally-based nationality, which was inclusive and yet ready to take on the challenge for the further development of the national culture. This was obviously adopted vigorously by the Indonesian state, especially by Soekarno during his Guided Democracy and his obsession at 'nation-building' and later on by Soeharto. But his national ideas were based to a large extent on the continuation of traditional society, both Javanese and the multiculturalism of the colonial society. Unlike most other nationalists, he opted for the recreation of the aristocratic past, instead of the recreation of the village past. He saw 'feudal' traditional society as a powerful source for social change that was not disruptive. Noto Soeroto would not live to see some of his fears realized in the 1950s and 1960s Indonesia: he died in 1951 at the age of 63, a year after his failed Udaya magazine.
Strikingly, there were no liberals at all in the Indonesian political spectrum. Moreover, Soeroto and Soetatmo were not keen on democracy and never stood up for the name of the rule of law. Like the majority of other Indonesian leaders during the period, they were far more concerned with the cultural development or nationalism, rather than the creation of rule of law and working institutions. In this sense, the similarities between conservatives and leftist inspired corporatists were greater than their differences. His readiness to leave the economic sector to the hands of the Dutch showed a rather hands-off approach toward the 'real' work that he expected of the revolutionaries after the end of the revolution: work toward the reorganization of the new society and the building of the economy.
The ideas of conservative corporatism as formulated by Soetatmo Soeriokoesoemo and Noto Soeroto can be summed up under several points. The first is the belief in the spiritual superiority of ancient Java. Although the West is superior in terms of managerial and technical capability, their civilization is bereft of a spiritual foundation. This lack of moral fibre resulted in the horrors of Western civilization, exemplified by the First and Second World Wars. The future Indonesian state-society was thus to rest their foundation on the spiritual values of ancient Java, at the same time coupling this with modern Western knowledge and techniques. This idea was what underlined the belief in the continuation of colonial relations. What Indonesians lacked should be compensated by the presence of foreigners capable of filling in the missing qualities. The second is the belief in the capability of the traditional leader and leadership. Connected to this is the distrust in the masses and, by extension, democracy itself. Traditional aristocratic-rule or what Noto Soeroto called an 'aristo-democracy' was the best solution for society. Soetatmo believed that the mass was formless and dangerous. The third point was the belief that cultural rejuvenation was an essential component of state and nation-building. This rejuvenation was to be elitist, its main aim was to revive high culture or adiluhung, by the elites.
A question was posed in the introduction concerning the extent to which post-independence state-society relations were affected by aristocratic Javanese thoughts. Obviously, to fully flesh out the relationship would require much more extensive work, but some initial thoughts become apparent. When one looks at the ideas presented above and the ideological project that Soekarno started under Guided Democracy and Soeharto continued under the New Order, there is a strong link between the two. Guided Democracy defined its value system as having roots in the Indonesian cultural past, exalting values like gotong royong (mutual cooperation), musjawarah untuk mufakat (decision through consensus), and the value of traditional leadership. Both assumed that traditional society lessened the propensity for violence. Guided Democracy actively denied Western political forms, especially liberalism, and opted for an idealized indigenous form of state-society relations. It placed the Presidential office as the centre of a pyramidal state-structure, with the President having sweeping powers to lead the nation onwards. It distrusted Western forms of democratic representation and allowed the incorporation of the various political forces of society to participate, in the hope of being able to control these forces. Like Guided Democracy, it dealt superficially with issues like economic development. Just as the New Order regime, it was pro-capital and worked closely with Western-educated experts. Soekarno also exalted a cultural rejuvenation, putting on the icons of ancient Java as a way to reconnect it with its lost, ancient past. This was pushed by the even more Javanese New Order regime.
This is not to say that Soekarno and Soeharto were under the influence of Soetatmo Soeriokoesoemo and Noto Soeroto. Their texts were but a small part of a larger ideological discourse that, like other modern political discourses in Indonesia, traversed the political, social, and economic status of Indonesian nationalist leaders. Reeve (1985) considers that the New Order state had its corporatist origins with many of the pre-independent nationalist thinkers, such as Soepomo, Ki Hadjar Dewantoro, Soekarno and the economic ideas of Mohammad Hatta. Should we not expand that pantheon of nationalists to those who had been de-legitimized by the nationalist discourse? Exploring the thoughts of pro-colonial aristocrats points to the hybrid, trans-ideological nature of post-colonial Indonesian state-society relations and stresses the need to look into other forms of nationalist ideas and expressions that were present in the period of national awakening.
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(1) Gellner 2006:1. Gellner defined nationalism as 'a theory of political legitimacy, which requires that ethnic boundaries should not cut across political ones, and, in particular, that ethnic boundaries within a given state should not separate the power holders from the rest'.
(2) Kartini 1976:36. 'De Europeanen ergert zich aan vele eigenschappen van den Javaan, bijv. hunne onverschilligheid, gemakzucht enz. Welnu Nederlanders, als gij u zoo daaraan ergert, waarom doet gij dan niets om die ondeugden te verjagen? Waarom steekt gij geen vinger uit, om den bruinen broeder op te heffen? Geloof me, al dat kwaad is uit te roeien. Neem hem den dichten sluier van zijn hersens weg, open hem de oogen, en gij zult zien, dat in hem ook nog iets anders zit dan de neiging tot het kwade, die in hoofdzaak voortspruit uit dom--en onwetendheid.'
(3) Kartini, in Door duisternis tot licht, quoted by Soeroto 1912:19. 'Met de vrije opvoeding beoogen wij voor alles om van de Javanen, echte Javanen te maken, Javanen, bezield met liefde en geestdrift voor hun land en volk, met een open oog en hart voor hunne schoonheden en--nooden! Wij willen ze geven 't mooie der Europeesche beschaving, niet om hun eigen mooi te verdringen of te vervangen, maar om 't te veredelen.'
(4) As Laurie J. Sears (1996:82) commented: 'What strikes the reader of this quote most forcefully is the juxtaposition of words used to describe Javanese traditions: confusion, incompetence, fictitious, gross misconceptions, and finally, the "sinking back into savagery" that typifies the evolutionary thought of the late nineteenth century'.
(5) Reeve 1985:11. Attendees included Ki Hadjar Dewantoro.
(6) Soeriokoesoemo 1920:5. 'Een volksregeering! Dat is een utopie, het heeft nooit in de wereld bestaan. Als die in mislukte Westersche beschaving schijnbaar een bestaan heeft, dan heeft deze schijn zich al gauw genoeg gewroken. In waarheid bestaat in Europa geen een volksregeering; de regeering drijft daar op een groep personen, die alleen in naam het volk vertegenwoordigen.'
(7) Soeriokoesoemo 1921:12. 'Als een toevalige coincidentie, beginnen nu juist vele westerlingen, ingenieurs, juristen, leeraren enz. enz. hun plaats in te nemen. Deze kunnen nl. nog gelooven aan groote wonderen, die heel eenvoudig te voorschijn kunnen worden geroepen door hoogere vermogens.'
(8) Soeroto 1927c:139. 'Hij is een Javaan die vrijwel alle eigenschappen van zijn volk mist, of deze zo weet te verbergen en te plooien als wordt gewenscht door het groepje onpractische droomers dat om en achter hem staat. Hij mist of alle eerlijkheid, of alle kennis welke in een dichter "denker" moeten worden verwacht. Hij is de figuur der onwaarachtigheid, der beginselloosheid, en hij staat op tal van punten ver beneden de door ons veel bestreden lieden van Indonesia Merdeka.'
(9) Soeroto 1927d. 'Hij is niet alleen geen Javaan meer, maar hij is een Javanenhater geworden; hij staat vooral achter de Inlanderhaters, die hij opstookt.'
(10) Soeroto 1925a:187. 'Ik... nam afscheid van de Indonesische Vereeniging, een vereeniging van jonge menschen, waarin de leus "los van Holland" zonder verder commentaar beleden wordt en waarin Hollandsch gesproken wordt en Hollandsche, althans Europeesche, begrippen als "nationalisme" en "revolutie" hoogtij vieren.'
(11) Soeroto 1928a:3. 'In dit internationale stadium der wereldevolutie hinkt het volk achteraan, dat zijn ideaal nog stelt in een absoluut nationalisme. Wij kunnen ons als natie niet "losscheuren", wij moeten nog juist hechten en de nauwste verbindingen zoeken met het Westen.'
(12) Soeroto 1925a:223. 'Dat zelfs in een vrij volk slechts een klein deel van dat volk in ware vrijheid leeft en dat het grootste deel zucht in geestelijk en stoffelijk slavernij.'
(13) Soeroto 1928b:45. 'Door de opvijzeling van alle Westersche methoden en inzichten toch, wordt straks vanzelf door de inheemschen het direct en het algemeen kiesrecht gevraagd als een begeerenswaardig goed, en met dit kiesrecht komt ook de jacht naar overwegende stemmen, naar partijgroepeeringen enz. enz., precies als in het Westen. En wanneer men daarbij nog onze korte politieke schooling en de drift van elk enthusiasme--zijn nationalisten niet uit hun aard enthusiasten? --in aanmerking neemt, dan loopt alles uit op demagogie, niet alleen tegen de vreemde heerschers, maar ook tegen de natuurlijke leiders onder de inheemschen zelven: de dragers der cultuur, der traditie, der bezonkenheid en van het verantwoordelijkheidsgevoel: de Aristoi.'
(14) 'Het problem dat ons hier bezig houdt, is dat van de staatsrechtelijke constructie van het gehele Koninkrijk, met name de vraag, in welke richting deze constructie dient te worden hervormd in verband met de eisen van het algemeen welzijn der indonesiese volken.'
(15) Soeroto, 1927a:4. '[...] eerst als wij ons politiek vrij gemaakt hebben, zullen wij van zelf economisch leeren denken en handelen.'
(16) Soeroto 1927a:4. 'Dat zelfs wereldeconomie, hoewel deze door de Westersche techniek is in het leven geroepen, niet tot de eeuwigheid een speciaal Westersch aspect zal blijven vertoonen.'
(17) Soeroto 1950a:11. 'De revolutie om de revolutie, zoals deze door Hitler maar evenzeer en door een gewezen nazi "de revolutie van het nihilisme" (Rausching) werd genoemd, vroeg of laat tenslotte haar eigen kinderen met huid en haar zal verslinden'. Hermann Rausching or Rauschning was a conservative revolutionary who had joined the Nazi party and then defected to become an anti-Nazi propagandist. He emigrated to the United States in 1941.
(18) Soeroto 1949b:3. 'Dat "kunst geen regeringszaak" was!'
(19) Soeroto 1949b:4. 'Het uitzicht op een eigen Indonesisch-nationaal leven moet bij ons hooge verwachtingen opwekken ten aanzien van een waardig staatkundig, economisch en sociaal leven. En ik zeide reeds zooeven, dat kunst als de bloesem of als de vrucht van een krachtig en gezond nationaal leven is te beschouwen. Ook in dit algemeene opzicht zal de nieuwe periode in de geschiedenis van Java, de periode van staatkundige aaneensluiting der Indonesische volkeren, wijde perspectieven openen voor de bloei van een nieuwe Javaansche kunst.'
(20) Soeroto 1949d:115. 'De groeiende zin voor partialitas, de verheffing van het deel boven het geheel, het voortrekken van het eigen--en groepsbelang boven het algemeene, de te groote aandacht voor het deel, het part, de partij. Het loopt uit op blinde partijdigheid en ten slotte op de enge ik-middelpuntheid oftewel egocentriciteit: dat is de eigenlijke kiem van heerschzucht en machtsbegeerte, van "imperialisme". On-Indonesisch doet het daarom aan: de versplintering en verbrokkeldheid te zien van de jonge Indonesische natie in een steeds grooter wordend aantal partijen, godsdienstige en politieke.'
(21) Soeroto 1950b:146. 'Wat is uw volk ongastvrij geworden; het zou wel diep te betreuren zijn, indien dat een blijvende eigenschap zou blijken, want gastvrijheid was wel een der beminnelijkste karaktertrekken van uw volk, terwijl zovele Nederlanders daaraan indachtig ook onder de nieuwe verhoudingen, hier zouden willen blijven werken en meewerken aan den opbouw van den nieuwen staat.'
(22) Soeroto 1949d:115. 'Wie was waarachtiger volksvriend: de potentaat, die vrij van wreedheid en wraakzucht daadwerkelijk democratisch-gezind was, of de moderne politieke democraat, de officiele "steunpilaar der maatschappij", de zich noemende pemimpin, die zijn macht en positie misbruikt om de rakjat djelata te berooven van hun karige levensmiddelen, van hun slechte kwaliteit textiel, welke hun veege lijf moet bedekken en van hun weinige olie, die hun lampje in hun donkere hutten brandende moet houden?'
(23) Soeroto 1949c:85. 'En dit is redelijkerwijze te verwachten, tenzij een Indonesische regeering op een onzalig oogenblik het voetspoor zou willen volgen van een nergens ter wereld met sympathie begroete kleur-politiek, en een "bruin-Indonesia politiek" zou willen voeren. Of besmet door een nazistische rassenwaanzin allen zou willen verdelgen behalve "ras"-echte Indonesiers!'
FARABI FAKIH is a PhD student in the History Department, Leiden University. Specializing in history of state institutions and political thoughts of Indonesia, he is the author of Membayangkan ibukota Jakarta dibawah Soekarno, Yogyakarta: Ombak, 2005, and 'Rumah Indonesia indah: Imajinasi posmodern dan iklan rumah real estat Indonesia', in: Budi Susanto (ed.), Masih(kah) Indonesia, Yogyakarta: Kanisius, 2007. Farabi Fakih may be reached at email@example.com.
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|Publication:||Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia and Oceania|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2012|
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